Monday, May 25, 2009

The Belgians' Last Stand, 1940

On May 24-25, 1940, the last, desperate phase of the Belgians' 18-day campaign against the invading Nazis began. Despite rapidly diminishing resources, and (due to the Allies' own desperate situation), inadequate support, the Belgians mounted, on the River Lys, a valiant resistance to the final, brutal wave of German assaults. On May 28, the Belgians would be forced to capitulate, but their heroism had nonetheless played an important role in enabling the British to evacuate many of the troops through Dunkirk. 

As the Belgians prepared for their last stand, King Leopold III issued an inspiring order of the day to his army. It became famous, especially for the King's promise to share the fate of his troops. Although he foresaw the Belgians' imminent capitulation, Leopold refused to follow his government into exile. Rather, hoping to assist his army and people, he insisted on remaining in Belgium. 

La grande bataille qui nous attendait a commencé. Elle sera rude. Nous la conduirons de toutes nos forces, avec une suprême énergie. 

Elle se livra sur le terrain où, en 1914, nous avons tenu victorieusement tête à l'envahisseur. 

Soldats, la Belgique attend que vous fassiez honneur à son drapeau. 

Officers, Soldats,

Quoi qu'il arrive, mon sort sera le vôtre. Je demande à tous de la discipline, de la fermeté, de la confiance. Notre cause est juste et pure. La Providence nous aidera.

Vive la Belgique! 


The great battle that awaited us has commenced. It will be brutal. We will conduct it with all our forces, with a supreme energy. 

It will take place on the ground where, in 1914, we victoriously resisted the invader. 

Soldiers, Belgium expects you to do honor to her flag. 

Officers, Soldiers, 

Whatever happens, my fate will be yours. I ask of everyone discipline, firmness, and confidence. Our cause is just and pure. Providence will aid us. 

Long live Belgium! 

A day-by-day account of the Belgian campaign, by the British liaison officer, Admiral Roger Keyes, may be found here. 

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